Native peoples’ efforts to protect their crop varieties and agricultural heritage in the US go back 500 years to when the Spanish conquistadors arrived. Today, Native communities throughout the US are reclaiming and reviving land, water, seeds, and traditional food and farming practices, thereby putting the culture back in agriculture and agriculture back in local hands.
The Food Chain Workers Alliance has a goal of nothing less than full rights and fair wages for the 20 million workers who grow, harvest, process, pack, ship, cook, serve, and sell food in the US.
For most tomato pickers in the US, a bucket brings in 50 cents, a piece rate that has remained virtually unchanged for more than 30 years. Because the rate is set so low, a worker has to pick more than two and a quarter tons of tomatoes per day – the weight of a young elephant – to make the minimum wage. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is transforming all of this.
For decades, farmworkers – the more than one million men and women who work in fields and orchards around the country – have been leading a struggle for justice in our food system. They have been building awareness and mobilizing the public, successfully securing some rights, higher wages, and better working conditions.
From the school cafeteria to rural tomato farms, and all the way to pickets at the White House, people are challenging the ways in which government programs benefit big agribusiness to the detriment of small- and mid-sized farmers.
The need for American citizens to become the policy-makers to create a just and sustainable food supply chain is urgent, because in the hands of the US government it has become increasingly unjust and unsustainable.
Heather Retberg stood on the steps of the Blue Hill, Maine town hall surrounded by 200 people. “We are farmers,” she told the crowd, “who are supported by our friends and our neighbors who know us and trust us, and want to ensure that they maintain access to their chosen food supply.”
Via Campesina, the world’s largest confederation of farmers with member organizations in 70 countries, has called Monsanto one of the “principal enemies of peasant sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty for all peoples.” See how peasant farmers, and the activists who support them, are challenging the agribusiness giant’s incursions into developing world farming.
The global movement for food justice and food sovereignty seeks to bust the corporate takeover of our food system, which has been accomplished with the complicity of our governments. Here are some of the ways it’s working towards this goal.
Think that burger’s cheap? Tory Field and Beverly Bell of Other Worlds dig into the costs, both human and environmental, of the industrialized food system.
Other Worlds’ Tory Field and Beverly Bell discuss issues of sustainability and agriculture with Mississippi farmer and member of Via Campesina’s food sovereignty commission Ben Burkett.
A shovel overturned can flip so much more than soil, worms, and weeds. Structural racism – the ways in which social systems and institutions promote and perpetuate the oppression of people of color – manifests at all points in the food system. It emerges as barriers to land ownership and credit access for farmers of color, as wage discrimination and poor working conditions for food and farmworkers of color, and as lack of healthy food in neighborhoods of color. It shows up as discrimination in housing, employment, redlining, and other elements which impact food access and food justice.
Women produce 60 to 80 percent of all food, both as subsistence farmers and as agricultural wage laborers. They are the primary providers for the majority of the world’s 925 million hungry people, obtaining food, collecting firewood and water, and cooking. And yet they have less access to land and the resources necessary to grow on it than their male counterparts. Inequitable distribution of land, labor, and resources leaves farming women triply burdened by work: in the fields, in the home, and in society.